Raymond Johnson

Raymond JohnsonOccupation:
Time in Japan:
Twelve years

Where are you from?
Boston, but I was born in West Berlin.

What brought you to Japan?
I auditioned as a dancer for Tokyo Disneyland back in October 1986 and came over with them. I was a special event dancer with about six others. We did all the stage shows, everybody' birthdays, all the promotional stuff.

How did you feel when you first got here?
Actually, I was very sick. On the airplane, one of the other girls accidentally put my passport in her bag and when I got to immigration, I didn't have my passport and freaked out. I had no idea what everyone was saying. I was afraid I might get arrested. About an hour later, she came over and gave me my passport. So it was a very stressful beginning. Then that night we went to a Japanese izakaya, and I guess from stress or something, I got sick for about four days. I went to the hospital and got IV tubes, the works. But it was fun after that.

What do you do now?
Over the last twelve years I've done choreography for a lot of major Japanese artists, such as Seiko Matsuda, Tunnels, Chage and Aska. I've also done concert tours, modeling, narration, TV spots, magazine ads, you name it. Now I have a live TV show Monday through Friday from 7:05 to 8am. I have to be in the studio at 5:30am. It was tough at first but I'm used to it now.

What kind of a show do you do?
It's pretty much geared towards children. We introduce a lot of goods, like Pocket Monsters, and goods from our sponsors such as Sony, Nintendo, Sega, P&G, McDonald's. We introduce the kids to things that we think are going to be the next "in" thing. The show's called "Ohasuta," short for "Ohayo Studio" (Good Morning Studio).

What do you like best about the show?
I like having a good time with the other hosts and staff. It's really fun to do. Most of it is scripted, which I follow about twenty percent of the time. I pretty much say what I want to say. It's like a habit now, like my morning coffee. We're children's idols in Japan. We get fan mail, mobbed on the street.

How long have you been doing the show?
One year and four months.

What do you like about Japan the most?
My friends.

What do you dislike about Japan most?
Like any other country, there are things that I'd like to see changed but as the Japanese proverb says, "Go ni wa go ni shitagaei" (when in Rome, do as the Romans do). If you're going to live here, you have to accept things that are Japanese. If you complain all the time, go home.

What's the weirdest thing you've seen or experienced in Japan?
I was working at a Dreams Come True concert and at the facility they had a port-a-potty. I went into one to do what I had to do and there was this odd button on the wall with no sign or explanation. I pushed it and all of a sudden, water came down from all four walls. Of course, I got all wet. Luckily it was summer, so it wasn't that cold. The button turned out to be an automatic washer for the toilet walls. I don't think anyone else has experienced this one and I hope no one does.

Are you planning on staying?
Well, twelve years ago when I got here, I wasn't planning on staying, but look at me now. So I really can't say.

If you could take one thing back from Japan to your native country, what would it be?
I would take my friends back for a while, and some of the Japanese cooking techniques.

What's your favorite area in Tokyo?
Shiroganedai. It's got a lot of trees and it's quiet.

Where do you want to be New Year's Eve 1999?
In my house with 1000 bottles of bottled water, a gas stove, a stock of food, and lots of batteries. I don't trust Japan with the Y2K problem. We'll have to watch Fiji first and see how they handle it.

If you could change one thing about Tokyo, what would it be?
The regular stuff. Bureaucracy is too bogged down. Decisions take too long. For a place that's so time-conscious, a lot of time is wasted on such trivial stuff.

You have to spend the rest of your life trapped on the Yamanote line. You're allowed to take one book, one CD and one luxury item. What would they be?
The book would be anything by Tom Clancy. The CD, anything by Luther Vandross and for the luxury, my bed. I have the most amazing bed!

Raymond Johnson spoke to Maki Nibayashi.

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